On paper the prospect of remaking the beloved classic western The Magnificent Seven must have seemed like a can’t miss proposition. Especially when it’s a project that reunites director Antoine Fuqua with two of the stars (Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke) of his Academy Award winning film Training Day. It would be nice to say that lightning strikes again for Fuqua and company but in the case of The Magnificent Seven that’s just a pipe dream. The film is an overlong slog that takes much too long to reach its destination, overstaying its welcome by at least a half hour. It will certainly not erase fond memories of the original Magnificent Seven or The Seven Samurai, the classic Japanese film from which the source material is derived.
It’s amazing that such a simple setup takes so long to get going and seems to literally take years. There’s simply no reason why we need an hour of screen time to introduce us to the seven diverse characters that make up the film’s title, most of whom are silly stereotypes that would have felt old hat twenty years ago. For example, there’s the Asian (Byung-hun Lee) who kills by throwing things; the mentally unstable older dude (Vincent D’Onofrio); the brooding Native American (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo); the battle scarred character suffering from PTSD (Hawke) and the alcoholic Irishman (Chris Pratt), etc.
Then there’s the leader of the pack, Sam Chisholm (Washington), the strong and silent type who’s all business. Unfortunately, the character, as written, gives Washington little to no chance to show off the considerable charisma that’s made him a box office draw for many decades. In other words, any actor probably could have filled those shoes and no one would have noticed.
Peter Saarsgard is the villain of the piece who goes by the moniker of Bartholomew Bogue. He and his henchmen terrorize a town and burn up a church in the film’s arresting opening sequence. Chisholm is put into service to assemble a team who will beat Bogue and his goons at their game. The climatic battle, of course, is saved for the final half hour but by that time interest wanes due to the plodding opening hour leading up to the big battle. At least the film does end with a bang, both literally and figuratively and we get treated to the iconic theme song, albeit over the closing credits.
The Magnificent Seven may please less discriminating fans of the original 1960 film but that’s about it. The beauty of that original film was that it had memorable characters to keep it flowing when the action was at bay. Unfortunately, this is a claim that can’t be made for what is yet another disappointing remake.
Snowden is playing all around the area. The Magnificent Seven will open in Lincolnton, Statesville and Morganton on Thursday, and at other area theaters.
Photo: Scene from The Magnificent Seven
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